Not many things stick to slick fielding shortstop Deven Marrero quite like the red threads into rawhide. But despite a 1,500-mile gap in baseball cities, Marrero has stayed glued to his American Heritage comrades like pine tar on a bat grip.
Boston’s Marrero and Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer became teammates when they were 9 and 10 years old, before leading American Heritage to a state championship in 2008 with a 31-2 record. Hosmer was drafted third overall in the 2008 amateur draft. Marrero was drafted 24th overall out of Arizona State University in the 2012 amateur draft.
“We have all been friends for a very long time,” Hosmer said. “As 11-12-year-olds we were on travel teams. We won every national and state tournament we ever did at that age. We chose to stick together because we had so much success at that age that we thought if we stuck together in high school we could do a lot of special things.”
Former Heritage teammate Nick Castellanos was drafted 44th overall by Detroit in the 2010 amateur draft out of Archbishop McCarthy.
“Heritage prepared me so much,” said Marrero, before his Red Sox fell to the Cardinals 8-6 Wednesday in Jupiter. “I played with the best players in Florida high school back in the day. That team helped me become me. The fact that we stuck together all those years was fun. I still talk to those guys every day. It helped me translate to where I am now.”
Marrero, 23, is attempting to crack the big-league roster of the world champions, while Hosmer has started for three seasons in Kansas City. Castellanos spent time in Single A, Double A, and Triple A before appearing in 11 games for the Tigers in 2013. The Royals and Red Sox became Patriots again when they recently became roommates in Miami. Castellanos is currently house-hunting in Miami Lakes.
“I have had 35 days in the big leagues,” Castellanos said. “It goes by really fast. I can’t believe I’ve been out of high school for four years. You dream about this stuff since you were little. When it finally comes true it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Mike Macey, an assistant at Heritage who coached Marrero, Hosmer, and Castellanos, said they are “tireless workers.”
“In the offseason when they are back down here, I go over to Eric’s house every day and throw to him,” Macey said. “It’s not like they get much time off.”
Opportunity is abuzz for Marrero, as the Red Sox look to fill a gap at shortstop.
After becoming the first Red Sox position player since 1991 to receive a big-league camp invite in his first year after being drafted, Marrero climbed from the Low A Lowell (Mass.) Spinners in 2012 to the Double A Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs in 2013.
“They tell me to go out there and play my game,” Marrero said. “It’s all about being consistent at this level. If I go out there and play my game and stay consistent on defense and offense, everything will take care of itself. I don’t like to play manager. I just like to go out there and play ball.”
Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield says Marrero “brings back the way shortstop used to be played.”
“We feel like he is one of the cleanest defenders in the entire organization,” Butterfield said. “He is an explosive athlete with a great work ethic. He is a defensive shortstop that is continuing to get better offensively. We are hoping for a well-rounded game and we’re confident that will happen.”
While Hosmer has 50 home runs, 217 RBI and a .277 batting average in his Royals career, Marrero has hit .258 and held a .977 fielding percentage in the minor leagues.
“They were probably the best teammates anybody could ask for,” Macey said. “It was a very unselfish attitude. They went out and played the game because they loved to play the game and it made everyone else around them better.”
The Washington Nationals drafted Adrian Nieto, out of Heritage, in the fifth round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Nieto played for Single A Potomac last season and has yet to crack a big-league lineup.
“We were kind of the trend that started everything at Heritage,” Marrero said. “We all got there in seventh and eighth grade. We were on varsity in eighth grade and had that whole thing going through our senior year. People just jumped on board when they saw what we were doing.”